Hacks And The Anglo Germanic Rivalry

Before I continue with this post…

Thank you to those taking the time to read my writing/thoughts about Hacks and my German experience here in The Naked Classic Forum. Thanks also for your understanding that I don’t have any proof readers – and so you get the ALL of my poor American education. Although I don’t believe in stats, according to those provided by this forum software, my writing is getting some exposure. With that in mind, I have run into a small problem that may prohibit me from continuing here:

(Don’t worry – I don’t want your money!) I have run out of Hacks materiel to read. As a pseudo-starving artist and as WorstWriter I am on a tight budget with reading material. Is there anyone out there with Hacks material to give away? I don’t mind old and/or beat-up stuff. Keep in mind, if anyone does send me material I will not return it. The main reason for that is when I read I frantically write notes in the books. Sometimes I rip out pages of books and eat them. Some material becomes part of me – and so it will be soiled with sweat, mucus and, in extreme cases, Onan’s seed(s). Oh well, we all pay certain prices for this whacky experience called life, eh.

Feel free to contact me and I’ll provide a postal address. Thank you in advance for your consideration and/or charity. And thanks again for reading my work.

And now on with the (freak) show.

While reading Hacks the other night a simple stage direction popped out of one of his pages and flew across my bedroom ceiling. I have a very high bedroom ceiling and I hate high ceilings. Why so many Germans like really old apartments with high ceilings is a mystery to me. But then again, the older I get the more “romance” becomes a mystery to me, as well. As far as I’m concerned high ceilings suck because they can fall so much further to crush me.

Stage direction from Peter Hacks: A comet appears and flies across the stage/office.

Hacks is a great playwright, although sometimes his stage directions are a bit unrealistic. Why this guy is still ostracized in the German literary and theatrical landscape is beyond me. Is the anger he caused after the wall fell so deep seeded? Can’t Wessi publishers and theatre managers get over their misguided anger? (I know, theatre managers can’t make decisions anyway!) Isn’t it obvious, especially after the recent finance debacle stemming from Wall Street and the various skyscraper bank offices around the world (yes, even Frankfurt/Main), that the differences between Ossi and Wessi has been kind of blurred? At the least, being raised in the Anglo world and now living in the Germanic world – and reading Hacks – I am inspired by a few thoughts of how things are really the same.

Here an interesting quote from “Numa – A Play in Five Acts” by Peter Hacks. (Warning: this is a tommi-translation.)

“We aspire to equality and wealth. But how should wealth get along with equality? And how should equality not fight against wealth? We are forced to produce a vast quantity of goods; the thirst for privilege cannot otherwise be killed except to be drowned in abundance. Equal wealth, rich equality. But on the long road ahead which of the two will remain left behind? Equality or wealth? Or in case we are going in that direction, will both be left behind? If we don’t do something about the situation immediately then they will both turn against us: the wealthy and the equal.”

Perhaps the title of this play should be: Numa – Making Fun of the GDR. Or maybe it could be called: Numa – If Shakespeare Were a Communist. And while I’m on the subject…, after reading this play I got to thinkin’: why is it that the Germans (or the Huns or the Teutons) don’t have a Shakespeare? Could it be because German history was too busy inventing communism? It’s not as though Germans through out history didn’t write anything that is somewhat comparable to The Bard. Who knows – maybe the Germans have actually written so much more that all the sweet, poetic works have been drowned in abundance. No, that can’t be. Maybe it just boils down to the fact that while the Anglos were romanticizing with the written word, z’Germans were trying to figure out how to build their great city upon a hill where everybody is the same and ruled by a singular, authoritarian bureaucracy and blinded by the shine of really fancy cars.

(No! Goethe is not your Shakespeare! But maybe Schiller or Büchner could have been.)

Seriously. We (the world?) can’t blame the Germans for communism. It wasn’t their fault that they invented it. So much can come out of constantly asking the question while standing north or west of the Danube and/or Rhine: what does it all mean? At the least, so many losses over the last two centuries has pretty much put the Germans in their place – hence their Storm & Drang is now equal to well-dressed pot-belly drunks with too many choices of unaffordable cars or old apartments with ceilings that are waaaaay to high.

Yes, indeed, the German place in history is to be a pseudo-annexed, subservient arbitrator bulwark for The West – which is run by rival white Anglo men. (Except for Kissinger!) Certainly this is not an environment to propagate any historic and low-key rivalry, right? Yet even though so much German butt has been kicked it is still not clear if the Anglos have won the century’s long, almost forgotten, rivalry. Oh, I say/ask: where is the scoreboard of the match when the playing field is fogged out?

Peter Hacks invokes in me a desire to rekindle the rivalry – or at least move it beyond sporting events. And the main reason for that is: the Germans are missing their Shakespeare.

Give this a thought. Since the Anglos and Germans compete at almost every level, why isn’t the talk of “rivalry” part of public discourse? At first glance it seems that the rivalry has been set aside. Sixty years after their last major conflict the dynamics that once guided the players has obviously changed. Or has it? Yes, even after z’Germans lost so many nasty wars, I am really curious about what drives them today. I feel as though it’s my duty to put whatever effort I can into understanding my expatriate host country. With that in mind, even if the rivalry today has become stupefying with a Fußball, is it completely out of whack for me to compare it to the days post Marcus Auerilius? You know, when it was easy to tell the difference between a clean-cut Roman legion and a stinky mud-ridden barbarian carrying two wives by the hair in one hand and a crude form of a hammer-weapon in the other.

Yes. I think the rivalry is still alive – and it rests in the long, strong, callous hands of a bunch of hip, good looking, big fuckin’ Germans who have lost their literary booty.

Obviously the rivalry has transcended. Today it’s about things like manufacturing, banking and how much vacation time the worker bees can afford. Didn’t WWI start because the Germans were so much more productive with their smelting plants than the Brits? Basically the Germans threatened Anglo interests around the world with not just the ability to build bigger and better krapp but also acquire all the natural resources to do that building? After the Germans failed at acquiring free access to all the world’s production resources, even today they still make some of the world’s best mass produced cars – and boy can they afford to buy energy.

Of course my previous statement has to be qualified. In Germany cars are unaffordable and can only be bought if tax payers are granted access to them in the form of corporate subsidies. Modern German culture even has a name for this cute little corporate/government feed-the-masses trick. For one, they don’t even call them cars/Auto anymore. Instead they call them “Firmenwagen”. The last I heard something like 60% of all new luxury cars on the road at any given time, that is BMW 3, 5, 7, the Audi Ax series, Mercedes, etc. are all Firmenwagen. (If 60% is presented as an official statistic then the real number can only be higher because “statistics” are not here to inform but instead to misinform). I’ve been living among z’Germans for a long time. I’ve worked for a lot of big-shot companies in this country. The thing that gets me is that I have never met anyone that has actually bought a new luxury car in Germany. Anyway – the rivalry is obviously to be found elsewhere.

Almost a digression…

So z’Germans are good at building things. I guess, in a way, they are also good at inventing things. (The PC, otto-automobiles, Beate Uhse, etc.) What they are not good at is capitalizing on anything. That’s because in order to capitalize on something it would mean that individuality would somehow have to be nurtured. I am aware of no evidence from The West Sector of such nurturing. In fact, it is from The West that the heavy fog proceeds to clutter the view of the rivalry scoreboard. But maybe, just maybe if we turn to The East….

The problem is z’Germans have given up. And I tend to think it has something to do with Shakespeare. But before I get into any banal name-calling, let me mention one more Teuton fuck-up.

Did you know that z’Germans invented Barbie™? It’s true. But the Anglos are the ones that make all the money on her. The turn-little-girls-stupid doll was originally called Bild Lilli. To make this mishap even more interesting, the frickin’ doll has its origin in the infamous yellow newspaper Bild Zeitung. But, as usual, the Germans didn’t know what to make of little girls going “eeeww” and “aaahhh” all day long. And so, there you go: z’Germans lose the wars and they lose the revenue rights to stupid but extremely popular figurines. Oh, yet another point on the scoreboard for independently thinking, industrious Anglos.


Looking to The East… After finally finishing a collection of Hacks’ classic plays, I couldn’t help but think a bit about German and Anglo rivalry. For me, the rivalry has long been decided – thanks to William Shakespeare. Of course, Shakespeare’s work is ultimately about language and it’s also about simple story telling. I suppose Schiller or Büchner is comparable and I won’t be so presumptuous to say that there is no other German or Hun or Teuton that doesn’t at least get some marks for trying to rival The Bard. I’ve simply concluded that the problem with z’Germans is the innate want/desire to be told what to do – instead of nurturing original, independent thought.

Come on! There’s good reason Gunter Grass is not known as a poet but instead as the voice of a broken soul. The man must be weaned from so much moral judgement – or? And Goethe! Don’t even get me started on him! Talk about missed (literary) opportunity. (Even though some of Faust II is pretty cool.)

And so… potentially… z’Germans can finally even-up the scoreboard with their version of z’Shakespeare. (Applause.) And all we have to do is look to what used to be Germany’s… better half? The only problem is in order to get some z’Shakespeare out of Peter Hacks you have to take a really large ideological leap and you will have to test your sympathies. It’s not a hard thing to do. Just keep staring stage left and he eventually will enter like a punch-drunk Macbeth or a mushroom intoxicated King Lear. I’m almost sure of it.

Hacks’ work – at least what I’ve read so far – is overwhelmingly about ideology. Yet it is cloaked in a freaky kind of classicism. In fact, Hacks uses historical figures to create somewhat twisted stories – that are ultimately about (his?) ideology. But there’s something else to Hacks. Something that makes me go back to read more of him. Is it because I think of Shakespeare the more I read him? I mean, I don’t like all of Shakespeare. I only like the so-called tragedies – except for Romeo & Juliet. I hate that play. And I also hate all his Histories.

I would never indulge in any sort of literary comparison between The Bard and The Hacks. In my opinion between language and ideology there is little room for imagination. Which is reason enough to hate Shakespeare’s Histories! Yet idealism doesn’t seem to be that important to William. It is everything to Peter. So why do I think of Shakespeare while reading Numa?

This is all I can come up with on the fly. Did you know that none of Shakespeare’s work (OK, at least very little of his work) is original? (Of course you knew that, you have an Arbitur.) Obviously, of his classic plays (Prexaspes, Seneca’s Death, Numa, etc.) none of them are original either. They are, indeed, regurgitated histories, born of the study of Kommunism 101 at Brezhnev University. You know, in some US universities, entire curriculum are based on researching the sources that Shakespeare steals from. With Hacks – who at times it feels like is trying to copy Shakespeare, albeit with a somewhat commi twist – all you need in understanding him is a copy of Das Capital and maybe access to wikipedia.

Yet I’m getting the feeling that Peter Hacks and his work has a place in history that is at some simple and minimalist level comparable to Shakespeare. Hacks has found a way to combine the nothingness of communist ideology with history. Where The Bard steals to create Hamlet, Hacks dabbles in the confines of the historically obscure – or the historically uninteresting. He takes historic figures and turns them into something anti-romantic and pro-working class. If more of Hacks’ work is like these few “classic” plays that I’ve read, then there must be a literary place in the history books (somewhere) for this dude.

Hacks takes Numa Pompilius out of either history or legend and zaps him into the Politburo of Rome. Characterization takes place, scenery is enabled, dramatic effect is fulfilled and there you have it: communist history is written – or rewritten. Would Stalin have liked Peter Hacks? At the least, Stalin would have had a laugh about the German Democratic Republic that Hacks so cleverly parodies in this play.

Numa was the second king of Rome. He must have been somewhat of an outcast, or, at the least, an unexpected ruler. Legend has it that Egaria, a nymph, not only became Numa’s second wife but also was, along with the teachings/writing of Plutarch, his teacher. Numa is accredited with quite a few achievements during his reign, the foremost being his ability to unite the rival tribes of early Rome.

Peter Hacks doesn’t bother much with the historical aspect of the second Roman King. His idea is to portray Numa as the mediator of domestic conflicts stemming out of an earlier, perhaps a somewhat more child-like form of the ultimate communist state. The conflict Hacks chooses for this story? A farmer fertilizes his farm and part of the fertilizer inevitably lands on a neighbours sunflower land. According to the plaintiff the sunflower farmer profits from this and the other farmer, the one that actually pays for the fertilizer, wants compensation. Yes. z’Shakespeare of The East meets Maschendrahtsound.

As this conflict is graciously, carefully and meticulously knitted through the story-line of the play, the reader (moi) never looses touch with the fact that the former GDR must have been a nightmare for those who believed with all their heart in the true doctrine of Marxism – which, of course, needed to include the principle of counter-revolution (ala Trotsky). Add to that how it must take a special mind to make all that mess funny.

As much as it pains me, the Germans might finally have their Shakespeare. This also means that all rivalries can continue anew.

On a little side-note, I found the following text quite amusing. But be warned. What you are about to read is tommi-translation (as previously mentioned). I make no claim of being a translator. I’m just a guy that landed in Germany one day (around 1989) and this big concrete wall practically fell on me as I got off the plane in Tempelhof. When I realized that the wall that fell on me wasn’t caused by the outrageous party that was taking place next to it, I got over my hangover and fucked a few German chicks. I’ve been caught in this Germanic vagina ever since – only to realize that learning German makes it even easier to fuck more German chicks.

Setup: One guy (Fauno) says that he wants to join the communist party. The party member (Klient) questions him and the following ensues:

Klient: The wish (to join the party) is commendable as long as it follows commendable reasons. Everyone is welcome, but none go unchecked.
Fauno: Sir, ask away. I won’t shy away from any test.
Klient: Name?
Fauno: Fauno.
Kleint: No, your birth name.
Fauno: My birth name? These communists. Oh! He wants my birth name. I’m not surprised. A bunch of stand-up collar communists, eh!
Klient: Your name!
Fauno: Waldteufel. (Forest devil)
Klient: Baptismal name?
Fauno: Fritz.
Klient: What is the driving force comrade Fritz Waldteufel for this grand step in your life?
Fauno: I live freely and I have read Marx.
Klient: We’ll deal with that.
Fauno: Living freely?
Klient: No: Marx. He who systematically faces the day is served much better by simply reading the newspaper. What’s your profession?
Fauno: In the morning I hunt. Evenings I fish. After supper I criticize. You see, I live as Marx prescribes.
Klient: Where did you read that?
Fauno: Marx.
Klient: The “criticise” part as well?
Fauno: It’s in the young Marx. I read it myself.
Klient: Young Marx?
Fauno: Right there.
Klient: Well, then, that’s the wrong one. Young Marx was a dissenter.
Fauno: Dissenter? From who?
Klient: From the old Marx.
Fauno: From the old Marx? Aren’t they the same?
Klient: The young one was the son of the old one.
Fauno: Really?
Klient: Dum question. Should the old Marx be the son of the young one?
Fauno: No, of course not. How foolish of me, really, a bad thought. But the young Marx – what happened to him?
Klient: Nothing good, I’m afraid. Nothing good comes from the young. A great man lives a great life for our new class struggle. And what do his children do? They go out and become students – or something. A sad game, indeed.

Rant on, baby. Discover your z’Shakespeare. German-Anglo rivalries rule.


Going Fishing

Finally some thoughts about Hacks’ play Die Fische. You’re patience regarding all the other thoughts is appreciated.

Living in Europe as an American is kind of funny. I don’t mean funny in the pure comedic sense – as in the stuff that makes you laugh out loud. It’s more like funny in the odd-ball sense – perhaps comparable to slapstick or something. I suppose if one were to look at it as long as I have, then one could also see the funny I’m talking about as macabre.

Bear with me…

Let me try to put it another way. Take for example the term culture. I think everyone would agree that in America “culture” is different than in Europe. For example, Fussball would not necessarily be considered as part of European culture. Unless, of course, there was some threat of losing money – at which time Europe would gladly, albeit while gritting its teeth, admit that kicking a ball around a really large field of grass could have something attributable to culture.

It’s not quite the same in the new country. In America the sheer multitude of sports available on TV means something more than it being a country full of no-brainers that kick, throw and run really fast. Baseball, for one, is definitely part of American culture. I’d go as far as to say that baseball, at a cultural phenomenon level, is equal to Jazz. In fact, baseball is an American past-time – which makes it something like THE national sport. Is there a national sport in Europe/Germany?

(One of my coaches (when I was young athlete in high school) used to say this about soccer: “Only communists play sports where you can’t use your hands!” Isn’t there something cultivated in that thought?)


Unfortunately – and this a great regret of mine – I didn’t play much baseball when I was young. I played other sports like football, tennis and lacrosse. And because of all that running around, it took till something like my twenty-third year (of life) to actually sit down and read a book. Does that make me uncultivated?

Let me tell you, if you want to really understand the true nature of sportsmanship – or being American – you should play baseball. Or at least try to learn the rules governing it.

For those that don’t know it, one thing about baseball that makes it unique to America is that it is one of the best examples of how an individual can have such an overwhelming effect on the whole. Individualism is a trademark of (being) America(n). I don’t expect most Europeans to understand that. I mean, Europe is, if nothing else, the most successful example of high-end automaton-living on the planet at this time. Even if Europeans started playing baseball it wouldn’t make a difference. Europe would still remain a place of monotony where out-dated aristocracy can still dream of ruling the world and as long as that isn’t possible it can claim ownership of the Mona-fucking-Lisa.

Of course, don’t get me wrong. It’s quite obvious that not everybody plays baseball in America. Does that mean that – as opposed to Europe – “diversity” is also part of American culture? This may come as a surprise to many of you, but I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that there is one other activity that may be included in this pseudo-examination of transatlantic differences and what actually constitutes culture – or the like.

Digress 1. (Don’t worry. I’m getting to Die Fische.)

When I was a boy I enjoyed fishing and if I had the chance I would have done a lot more of it. Fishing is a great outdoor activity and is perfect for fatherless youth. In a way, fishing – and playing other sports – helped me stay out of trouble. For those unaware: trouble is yet another part of American culture. In fact, and this is kind of a secret regarding America, trouble stems out of the differences that make up America… (Sorry. I can’t reveal anymore or I’ll have to kill you.)

There’s really not much to fishing. You just need a bit of equipment and some patience. In fact, the first time I ever experienced anything like “karma” was when I was bass fishing on Virginia river shores.

Bass fishing on swampy river shores and inlets is almost like the fishing seen in the film “The River Runs Through It”. That film, based on the Novella by Norman Maclean, was about a different type of fishing called fly fishing. Bass fishing usually employs a small boat and our rivers didn’t move as quickly. Also, we used spinning rods instead of fly rods – and we considered the whole thing more like hunting. To say the least, there is nothing finer than hunting and catching a big mouth bass!

If you knew where to go and how to get there you could also bass fish/hunt from river/swamp shores – which is great if you’re young and can’t afford the boat. (Yours truly!) The biggest hurdle to this kind of fishing, beyond figuring out location, is learning how to caste. Casting a lure requires some pretty unique skills. I knew a guy that could caste a lure with a spin rod thirty or so yards and hit a penny lying on the ground – while he was standing in a boat on the river. Yeah, finding Karma requires some precision and skill and the ability to caste a lure between the half-sunken roots of trees lining river inlets where bass like to hide.

Now, I don’t know about you, but is there “culture” in anything mentioned above?

I really miss the idea that was/is my homeland, I really miss the/my geography. But could I go back to that culture?

Digress 2. (Yes. We’re getting to Die Fische.)

Unfortunately life moves on. And I made the grand mistake of “moving on” to Germany – where fishing is treated like another bureaucratic, consuming, state-sponsored activity and people are clueless to the simple beauty of baseball or fishing. As we all know bureaucracy rules everything in Germany. It even rules culture. The US has its bureaucracy, too, but I can say that it has nothing to do with fishing – or throwing a ball around. Yes, I guess one can say that I learned about bureaucracy the hard way: I went across the pond (the Atlantic) to actually swim in it.

During the early phase of my frustrating move to Germany, probably in the mid 90s, I thought about the possibility of going fishing. I mean, there are a lot of rivers in Germany. I even saw old men, mostly Ausländer, sitting on the banks of rivers with fishing poles and Styrofoam buckets at their side. Since I was becoming desperate regarding the error of my ways I thought I might be able to save my sanity and fish again.

I went to a German version of a Tackle Shop. The place had fishing poles and lures and… All the equipment I would need. Then I asked Herr Arrogance (the guy who inherited the store, of course) if there is anything I need to know about the rules. Typical of Euro sour-pusses, he acknowledged that I was different and then proceeded to tell me, with a sinister grin, that Germany loves its bureaucracy – because it does nothing more than protect his and everyone else’s claim to inheriting it.

Naturally, I’ve given up on fishing because bureaucracy has beaten me down to a pulp since moving to Germany. I also let the reality of mistakes settle into my soul and now I live in the grand cage that is oh-so golden. Trust me when I say that one can get used to such a cage. Yet sometimes I am reminded of things past and a lone tear falls from my left eye (because it’s the weakest one) and I think back to the days when life breathed inside me, to the day when I didn’t run away, to the day when it all wasn’t about feeding the machine that Europeans lie to themselves by screaming the world “culture” – and the state beats them to it screaming louder “bureaucracy”.

Such reminders stick with me and provide a spark that leads to a memory. The newest of which comes from the play Die Fische, by Peter Hacks. Even though this play has nothing to do with baseball, it reminded me of it. Even though this play has nothing to do with fishing, it reminded me of those swampy river banks in Virginia. And, yes, this play reminds me whole heartily of my newest love in this golden cage: cultivation.

Stop the presses! OK. Maybe the play Die Fische does have something to do with fishing…

I can no longer fish and I’m too old for sports. And now I thoroughly enjoy the only thing I’ve learned while living in Europe: cultivation. Cultivation is no different than learning how to fish or playing baseball. But it is not learning how to play soccer.

Digress 3.

Of the plays I’ve read so far this play is the most exciting – and not because it should be categorized as “macabre”. Die Fische takes place in May, 1866, in the mountains of Rio Frio, Mexico. This is during the French intervention under Napoleon III who also wants to install Maximillian (Hapsburg) as monarch. Supposedly Napoleon has sent Professor Simon, a scientist, to research an important discovery having to deal with the existence of “homo pisciforme” – or the fish-man.

Now, this play has quite a complex plot – and perhaps here lies the/my connection to American culture as listed above. One of the complexities in this plot is the underlying conflict between imperialist Europe and struggling republican Mexico with the duly elected Benito Juarez. Even deeper in the underlining plot is the fact that by 1866 the American civil war was over. With that mind, by the end of the play it’s not clear who the soldiers all worked for – as the concept of spying may be taken to a new level by Mr. Hacks.

The main conflict of the play is between the commanding soldier Goyon and Professor Simon. Goyon is preparing to leave Mexico and return to Europe because they (Europeans) have lost the conflict. Simon wants to stay and, according to the hand-written letter from Napoleon, Goyon has to follow his orders. Goyon thinks militarily about the situation because Juarez rebels are threatening him and easily questions not just Simon and his letter but the legitimacy of Simon’s research. And that’s where the macabre enters.

Homo Pisciforme is used in this play to describe a creature that is some kind of a hybrid between a fish and a man. Simon thinks he has finally found this hybrid, which will lead to the greatest scientific discovery of the century. But the only way to get this creature is to fish for it, which Simon is doing throughout the play. The thing that prevents him from making any kind of discovery, though, is the political conflict affecting their world and the fact that at the beginning of the play soldiers ate the first catch.

So there’s also a little bit of cannibalism in the play as it begins with three soldiers eating one of the caught fish. When they learn what they have eaten they want to kill Simon. To say the least, Hacks has created quite a comedic character in Prof. Simon and an adequate character of authority in Goyo. Unfortunately time is not on Simon’s side and the scientific discovery must continue to wait. As usual, authority always wins – even if you don’t quite know where it’s coming from.

I won’t spoil the play any more here because I recommend that everyone read this play. My only question is, when one considers all the boring plays available on German corporate subsidized theatres these days, why is this exciting play no where to be seen? It really is a cool play and unlike that krapp from Botho Strauß or Moritz Rinke, it’s not a play about being German. Thank goodness!

Rant on.


Chip On Shoulder

Obviously in my last two posts I failed at writing about the most recent play that I read by Hacks. In fact, it was my intention to write about Die Fische but I never quite got around to it. That shouldn’t be understood as any kind of conclusion regarding the play. It is a play that I actually enjoyed reading. I guess, to put it another way, I’ve reached a kind of wall regarding Hacks.

Well maybe the word “wall” isn’t quite right. Perhaps I should term it: dilemma. And my … dilemma isn’t about actually writing about Peter Hacks. In fact, give me pen & paper or a lowly old typewriter and I could write about anything. I am WorstWriter! (https://worstwriter.wordpress.com/) With that in mind, the stuff I write doesn’t make much sense, but who really needs to make any sense in this day & age of gluttonous, superficial nothingness where “worst” should prefix almost everything?

I confronted the publisher of this forum about my meaningless little dilemma because, well, I thought I might need some motivating to continue. The publisher’s advice was to simply write about something else, which I did. And then I turn around and he’s no longer running the Peter-Hacks.de website. Has he run out of stuff to say about Hacks?


I might get to Peter Hacks’ Die Fische in my next post. Until then… Get this…

In America we have various sayings and euphemism for the misery-happiness that is life. Naturally this is subjective but if one were to take the time and analyze it then it might be somewhat clearer that if America and the American Way of Life could be summed up in a few words those words just might be these: Chip on Shoulder.

The words are used something like this: Wow, that guy has a chip on his shoulder. Or you might have heard it used like this: Tom, you need to get that chip off your shoulder. The connotation here is that the person with the chip on his/her shoulder has a grievance or is somehow angry about life and/or his/her situation. That maybe true but…

I think the meaning of Chip on Shoulder is completely misunderstood. The reason it is misunderstood is simple. We no longer live in a world where achievement (chip?) can actually be measured. Hence, this is also the reason that I believe (in)human genetic coding has evolved to include the Chip on Shoulder. That’s right: we’re all now born with it. Since the advent of the 20th century and the success of The West the “chip” is like a non-opposing thumb that is always under our skin. When I was young there were actually people that still had to go out to acquire the chip. Boy, evolution is tricky, eh.

Facing truths.

Way, way, way, way, way back… in a time before marketing, service-industry-employment and pop-culture replaced the actual making of things in the so-called First World, the saying “he has a chip on his shoulder” didn’t mean that someone had a problem and therefore blamed the world for his/her problem. Instead, the whole idea of the “chip” was literally a way for a man to confront another man that something is wrong (in the game of life).

It worked like this. A man would put a piece of wood (chip) on his shoulder and walk up to another man and say: I dare you to knock it off. Of course, what we’re dealing with here is violence. I think by and large, this is one of those rare acceptable forms of violence – you know, as is the case with some sporting events. In order to control the violence, though, there should be a law/rule that says you can’t kill someone – no matter what. If the challenge was accepted then, in a way, the score (the conflict) would/could be equalled and the game (of life) could continue.


The fact is the “chip” was a fairly decent way of replacing the duel where someone usually would die. I mean, how can a man really face his problems in the days of rampant individual arms-collecting? Remember, we do live in a world where the only possible and yet irrational measurement for achievement is material gain. Today Chip on Shoulder has been relegated to meaning that a man simply has a problem and he blames the whole world for it. I guess it’s no wonder that so many people pick up guns these days and take so many out with them since they have no game to play anymore. Yeah, running amok is a one-sided duel!

Fairness and justice.

In a world where economics and politics is driven by people who in order to survive must consume it has become fairly easy to blur the truth of justice. In fact, if you ask me, this is one of the reasons “democracy” has failed and will continue to fail until it is removed. I’m really sorry to bust your bubbles out there but 50%-50% politics isn’t democracy. Even 49-51 or 52-48 politics isn’t democratic. What it really is – is this: collectivism. I suppose The West’s failure is comparable to the theory of phase-cancellation but I won’t get into that here. Everyone has a problem on both sides of the so-called democratic process. Yet voting solves no problems.

The good thing about using the old Chip on Shoulder as a way to solve problems is that if the challenge is/was done right, usually in the public domain, the conflict between the two men/parties could be addressed because after the fight the core of the problem is revealed. Here, of course, is the difference to a duel. A duel would usually kill one side of the challenge. But more importantly, in a duel the person who survives has killed the truth. Remember, there was a time when a death in a duel was considered “fair”. With the whole Chip on Shoulder thing no one has to die – including the truth. Perhaps that’s the reason so many people today mix up fairness and justice?

Is there really a financial crisis right now?

Unless you believe that bears shit in toilets there is really no financial crisis in the world right now. But there is a great example of how Chip on Shoulder is finally being taken away as a chance to even the score. In fact, we’re living in that example. If anyone wants to truly understand the current financial crisis taking place in my Grand United Mistakes and the world, then give this a thought.

As you may or may not know, Dubya (G.W. Bush) and A L L his neo-con cronies are very successful failures. We in America have created a new term for these people. These are not people that achieve anything with their lives and/or the things they do. Yet they seem to “succeed”. But it’s not really success that they share amongst themselves, now is it? Hence we call them and what they do: failing upwards.

The reality is the entire request in United Mistakes Congress for $700 billion dollars to bail out “Wall Street” is a really good joke – if you understand that kind of humour. It has nothing do with bailing out anything – nor does it have anything to do with the financial situation of the United Mistakes or the world. What the request from the United Mistakes Secretary of the Treasury (crony) and Dubya’s administration is, is nothing more than a last-ditch effort to secure the cherry that has been floating atop the cream that they’ve already horded for the past thirty (or so, i.e. since Ronal Regan) years. So for you numb-nuts out there, the $700 billion isn’t about socialism taking over capitalism. Nor is it about capitalism failing. It is simply a continuation of something that so many refuse to even look at because they/you are so obsessed with measuring “achievements” that do not even exist. Bush & Company are laughing their asses off!

Although I don’t care to actually explain what I’m writing (or thinking) I will put the above paragraph another way: Failing upwards is nothing new. In fact, the people that have failed upwards are the ones that built our world. More to the point: these people are nothing more than robber-barons. Any numb-nuts out there know that term? They do not care what happens to “Wall Street” nor do they care about America or the world. And this is really the saddest part of the whole Dubya debacle over the last eight years: the American people and the world deserve every bit that’s coming to them. The American people and the entire “Western” world put Bush right where he is and have enjoyed it to the hilt – and now that their/your masters want a chunk more (before their term ends) everyone thinks that DAS VOLK is being screwed.

I’m laughing my ass-off too.

Again, 50%-50% politicking doesn’t quite get anything done, does it? Germans should know this well from their silly multiple-party corporate government. No one can maintain a clear political mandate in Germany in order to make a difference for the participants or DAS VOLK. The fact is, if there are people out there that were/are against Dubya and this type of “capitalism” then where are the chips on their shoulders!

It doesn’t matter on what side of the Atlantic you live. The game is over. Robber barons will be quite happy with just the cream! But I suppose, since I live in Germany, I should give some credit where it’s due. Thank goodness Fr. Merkel got on the TV this week to announce that the/her robber-barons should get their fair cut. But then again, I’ve yet to meet in all my travels a PHD that’s much brighter than her.

The interesting thing about Dubya and his world is that he is probably the first (in)human that has been able to take advantage of the evolution of the Chip On Shoulder. You see, by moving to Europe and living amongst a bunch of perverted socialists that have perfected the Grand Masquerade Ball also known as “society”, I have been able to see through the divide that is the Atlantic. My conclusion is that there really is no difference. With that in mind, I think it’s time to walk tall, carry a big stick and say: come on, I dare you. It’s time to start standing up for something…

Rant on.


Looking For Some Absurdity – Part 2

As previously stated, I enjoy reading plays. The tiny, very dark yet alert place in my head is the perfect venue for my own personal theatrical showcase. I’d even go as far as to say that reading a play is my idea of fun, a good time, perhaps even comparable to paying for sex. For those who don’t/can’t understand the pleasure of paying for sex, then you can also compare my pleasure to taking care of your/a Schrebergärten. Of course, reading a play isn’t as easy as hoping in your car and driving to the theatre to see it. Yes, being able to go see a play is the only result I can come up from all the wasted welfare funds channelled into Germany’s support of “culture”.


You might be asking the question: why do I pick on subsidies and culture? The federal corporate government of Germany has the right to piss away tax Euros as well as any nation. But, beyond the fact that I believe A L L authority must be questioned, there is the simple premise that “culture” should be a dynamic constant and not a static one. That’s why today, after living in Europe for almost twenty years, I laugh at all the corporate Americans visiting Europe and saying things to me like: Wow, there’s so much culture here. I usually ungracefully correct them by stating: Sorry, dude, but that old shit you’re gawking at is dead history; it’s a bunch of dusty stuff at a standstill; culture is something that (should be) alive and well.

Which brings me back to the question alluded to in Part 1: with all the subsidy money dumped into German theatre, what’s come of it?

Keep in mind that there are basically three pillars on which theatre stands. This is pretty basic stuff so you don’t need a compulsive college degree (or Abitur?) to understand it. The three pillars are: acting, directing and writing. That’s it. I mean, come on, one should ask: why is it that western culture began writing stories in the form of dialogue and not in the form of narrative? I don’t really know what the answer to that question is. But I’ll bet it has something to do with simplicity. Another simplistic thought is this: in order to make three a crowd, two have to become a horde.

The biggest hurdle I had when it came to writing for the stage – beyond being (worst)writer – was the fact that the directors (and theatre management) and actors have, over time, delegated the writer to being the weakest link in the triad. The two have horded together because, by default, they are the ones that occupy the stage. This, my worst-reading friends, is one of the reasons that Peer Fucking Gynt and Woycek and King Lear eat up so much subsidy money each year and Germany produces no new playwrights.

Hell, I’d go even further. The triad mentioned above applies to a lot more. Lo & behold, there’s even a current example. The anticipated film The Baader Meinhof Complex is about to be released. My reaction to the movie is the same as my reaction to so many other movies released under the German flag: Oh boy, the same producer, the same director and the same fucking (made for TV) actors. The German film/theatre scene is so monotonous that I feel like cutting off one of my ears – or stabbing out one of my eyes? Add to that the repetitiveness of writing/producing a movie ABOUT a part of West Germany’s recent history instead of using that history as a springboard to something creative…

Well, I’ve already mentioned how creativity has been stifled by the wealth of welfare. There’s no need for Bernd Eichinger to produce movies like Name of the Rose or The House of the Spirits (Geisterhaus) anymore, right? He’s made enough money and position in Hollywood to be his own judge, jury and audience when it comes to creative work.


The good news is: in a welfare state all failed playwrights and writers like me are able to find some vindication. It is in the form of a simple question. Where are the writers that didn’t make all the errors that I/we made? Where are the writers that wooed all the thinking-actors out there – you know, the actors that could probably write “it” better? And the directors, born out of the waste that is/was Heiner Müller’s inability to write something original and instead regurgitate the work of others in the name of populism (and not creativity)?

Have I mentioned fuck you yet in this post?

Well, I guess, if I can’t be the/a playwright created out of the nurturing of creativity via taxed Euros, then who should it be? I suppose I might have answered that question in Part 1. Or at least I provided some fodder from which an answer could be derived. Yet I still stand by my hugely rude and pretentious assumption that Germany is unable to produce a playwright for the world stage even though it spends more tax money on theatre (movies?) than any other country in the entire galaxy – because it is indigenously lacking in creativity.

Enter stage left a 20th century dead communist writer. Should he be granted status as the new German playwright deserving of all the subsidy praise – even though he doesn’t breathe anymore? My selfish answer is yes. Peter Hacks is dead; but long live Peter Hacks the playwright. At the least, he is one of the first writers to prove that subsidies can actually produce a good writer.

Isn’t Peter Hacks, in affect, a new German playwright? For one, I find it astonishing that someone could write so much and do it almost solely in the name of politics – and yet still not bore me to death – as is the case with Heiner Müller, Bertold Brecht and, goodness forbid, Botho Strauß. (You’re off the hook this time M. Rinke!) I mean – what a waste of writing talent those guys are! I can’t help but ask: who the hell did they write for? Was it for an audience? Was it for the critics? What about writing for the next guy that can spell or formulate a complex sentence? OK. Maybe they all wrote for themselves. Yeah. That must be it. All German writers writing for themselves and they are the cream of the crop…?

Of course, Hacks was a student of Bertolt Brecht. Dare I complain about Brecht’s work being idealistic krapp and boring! After reading Hacks’ and, perhaps, seeing through his ideological façade, I have come to this (for me) misconstrued but standard question about playwriting:

– Is there room anymore for theatrical effectiveness vs. literary value?

Now, I’m no student of theatre science. In fact, I’m no student of nothin’. What I am is a failed playwright that, according to my bookshelves, has read a play or two. One thing I can say as a failed, well-read playwright is that theatrical effectiveness and literary value are not necessarily what determines if a play is actually good. To me the thing that makes a play good is simple: creativity. Hacks writes with impeccable skill underneath which might be a hidden creative agenda the likes of which Brecht only dreamt of. Unfortunately, Hacks’ creative prowess might have been hindered by the politburo. Still, compared to the various aforementioned German playwrights, Hacks is in every way as good. The simple fact is, compared to Botho Strauß, Hacks’ work is readable to someone that does not want to become German to understand it. That’s also an indication that his work transcends. That is, you could actually produce any of Hacks’ classic plays outside of Germany. I think that’s neat!

I may be wrong. Or, at the least, I’m just confused. Reading Hacks has taken me back to the days when I battled with reading plays written between ancient Greece and the end of the 19th century. For the longest time I could never understand why no one challenged why all of that krapp is required “study”? Then I started reading authors like Ionesco and Beckett. Not only did “study” turn fun, but theatrical naturalism, reality and most importantly, absurdity was fruit to my soul. In fact, it was so good that I began to emulate it. Yes, absurdity became a way of life for me. I loved it even more as long as I could properly get it down on paper. Obviously, I failed.

Yet the hope/dream lived on. And suddenly I’m thrown in to a situation that I have to read a communist writer. I hate communism. What a bunch of nothingness! And then, all of the sudden, I’m thinking, how does one come up with the idea of writing about one of Goethe’s chicks as though she were a woman scantily admitting to the fact that women aren’t the de facto harbourers of love? The only way a man can come up something like that is if he writes with his hands tied behind his back. Or?

And with the play I just finished, Die Fische (The Fish), I kept yelling as I read through it: man eats himself, man eats himself! Yes. There is a beauty to writing when an author sets the scene in the middle of kings and noblemen fighting for land rights and in the middle of the battle is a whacked out scientist trying to discover a hybrid human that may bridge the gap to man’s current state of mind and the lost thoughts of evolution.

Will Hacks eventually get the recognition he deserves? To me he is one of the only writers I’ve ever encountered that has bridged the gap between the classic and the absurd. What a great thought, eh? I know, due to his political position, that such recognition will be a hard pill for western publishers/critics/theatre managers to swallow. But who knows? I’m sure the world will do much better if it stops the compulsive learning of classic literature and starts impulsively learning … something else.

I’ll be the first to admit that what killed off playwriting were the writers themselves. I mean, as previously mentioned, they don’t really write for an audience. I’ll even go as far as to say that while audiences were advancing, playwrights were heeding the calls of their pocket books and/or the whims of the pocket books of their producers, publishers and theatre managers – to no avail. Sure, so much practice gave us perfectly skilled writers like Brecht, Botho Strauß but who has ever heard of a perfectly skilled creator?

I actually tried to explain this whacky pseudo-theory about the death of playwriting to someone once after we drank too much Italian red wine. It’s come back to me now since discovering again the pleasure of reading plays. Obviously I didn’t get very far with my theory – which is the case for many thinking non-academics. But that’s neither here nor there.

Really Helpful Person: Tom, you’ve written so many plays and none of them have had any success. Why don’t you take a course or something?
Me: A course?
Really Helpful Person: Yeah, you know, in creative writing.
Me: Sounds like a contradiction.
Really Helpful Person: You see, Tom, that’s part of your problem. You don’t understand that you can actually learn to write.
Me: Oh yeah.
Really Helpful Person: Yeah. Maybe then you can write some plays that people want to see.
Me: Oh, right….
Really Helpful Person: And then all that writing you do won’t go to waste.
Me: Will they teach me how to be creative, too?
Really Helpful Person: Huh? Tom, you are so difficult and you’re a snob.
Me: Oh, that’s the best thing you’ve said to me all night.
(Gulp, gulp, gulp.)

So who stood up one morning in a bad mood and declared that playwriting had to be… I don’t know… thorough? Was it those that subsidize culture? Perhaps it has something to do with compulsion that we call life these days. Nothing is done on a whim anymore because anything worth doing cost too much, right? Yeah. Everything costs too much except reading – and maybe even writing – a play.

At this point I can only assume that Peter Hacks wrote his classics because, well, the/his politburo, in one way or the other, told him or allowed him to do so. He didn’t only write some great plays but I think he also outsmarted the censors. One can’t even get close to saying the same thing about other German playwrights whose names are bigger and supposedly faced no politburo.

It’s not enough for me that Hacks’ plays have literary value. And at this point in my own failed attempt at becoming a playwright, I don’t actually care if Hacks’ work is theatrically effective either. The only thing I do care about when reading a play is if the author can take me to that perfect place that is between his imagination and mine. It looks like I have found a communist with that ability.

Yes. Indeed. I have reached a new low in trying to understand the art of playwriting. But I suppose that doesn’t matter: playwriting is dead.

Rant on.


Looking For Some Absurdity – Part 1

Before I get into the whole seeking absurdity thing and why Peter Hacks isn’t an absurd playwright but should be, I’d like to rant a little about something that will eventually cause my death or might just linger in my soul like a bad bowel movement. Oh yeah, and before I forget. This rant might also finally get me deported. But I’ll try to post part-2 before that happens. Now. Before I get into explaining everything, let’s first have a quick English language course on the expression “fuck you”.

“Fuck you” is an interjection. According to most sources an interjection can be a figure of speech or a word that expresses emotion. With that in mind, “fuck you” is a derogatory emotional expression that is said because something bothersome motivated a speaker to say it. Now, if that bothersome thing is only one sided, that is, only one side is bothered, that means whoever receives the “fuck you” cannot simply throw it back. I mean, come on, there has to be rules out there, right? Otherwise all we’d have in this world is a bunch really smart, well earning career people out there saying nothing but fuck you to each other all day.

Moving on….

I enjoy reading plays. In fact, I enjoy reading them more than actually seeing them performed. Call me a fuddy-duddy or even uncooperative, but I’m usually disappointed when I go to German theatre and watch a bunch of compulsive addicts put on a play. The attitude I have is in part due to living in Germany and attending so many (too many!) German state subsidized play productions over the past twenty years. Add to that the bitterness I have of being rejected by German theatre houses because… Well, I guess they reject me even today because I’m (worst)writer.

Needless to say, I’ve given up on German theatre for basically two reasons (beyond the one already mentioned). German theatre, like an incorporated radio or TV station, is completely unoriginal and uses economics as an excuse for the products its sells. (Yes, theatres do sell products other than sweets and 1,- Euro coat hanging services.) With that said, how many fucking times can Peer Gynt, Woycek or King Lear, etc., etc., be produced? I’ve got nothing against these plays. They are great. But who gave them free-reign to occupy German stages as though they were post WW2 GIs? (And fuck all those theatre subscribers!) In fact, for every production of one of them so-called classic plays there should also be a production of a new, original play. Is that asking for too much? You bet your knickers it’s asking for too much. Just try and have a rational conversation with a German literary manager (Dramaturg) or, goodness forbid, a Theatre Manager (Intendant) about seeing something original on a major stage. You’ll be rewarded with a birds-eye-view of how theatre tussies think economically. Oh boy…

Me: Excuse me, Mr. P-H-D Intendant, I have a question.
P-H-D Intendant: Jaaaaaaaaaaa.
Me: why don’t you perform an entire season of original plays with all the money you get from my taxes?
P-H-D Intendant: Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. H. Cough. Choke. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. (Walking away). Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. (Even further away; farting.) Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. (Fade out.)

Anywho. When I want to see “theatre” and my partner and I can afford it, we go to London or NYC to see theatre. At least in those places there is SOME originality! Other than that, as I said before, I read plays.

And while I’m on the subject.

Did you know that Germany sticks billions of Euros a year into theatres? Seriously. They do. It’s obviously such an attractive undertaking that German politicians think that they somehow really should support the dramatic arts because, well, it has something to do with “culture”. The German corporate government seems to treat theatre as though it were an aside, perhaps even an entertainment park – at the least the corporate government of Germanland treats theatre as a pseudo adult Disney place, I guess, less Micky & Donald and Uncle Scrooge (Dagobert), where the dead souls of Beamten-Ärsche can rest their heads as though they actually deserve no eternal shame. I mean, those fancy and very old German theatre houses are certainly the perfect place for overworked corporate servants to fall asleep for a few hours. Right?

I’m not against the tax money being put into these houses, you know. I’m just against the lack of creativity that comes out of it all. But who today is really interested in creativity?

Perhaps the question is: what the fuck else you going to do with all those historic buildings that have so many comfy seats that perfectly scratch your asshole if you allow your hips to dance in them? Sarcasm aside, if theatre in Germany is really about art or culture or creativity, shouldn’t there be a result from the German corporate subsidies? I mean a result that is somehow measurable or at least definable? No? OK. Forget measuring anything. That would probably be too complicated. Just go to a play…

The fact is, Germany subsidizes what it calls culture. And I don’t think that’s good – especially because it has nothing to show for it. For me it is nothing more than Arbeitbeschaffungsmassnahmen (a work procurement program). I mean come on, the whole Arbeitbeschaffungsmassnahmen works well for the Autobahns or Hospitals or ditch-digging. The only problem is, with Autobahns, there is at least a result from all that spending. That’s right. I can drive as fast as I want at 3a.m. But where are the results from the work procurement program that is German theatre? What? Oh, Peer fucking Gynt is playing. Gee, I’d rather drive the Autobahn free of traffic in the wee-hours and forget about the last time I heard King Lear in German!

My biggest gripe with German theatre – after experiencing it since the late 1980s – is basically that Germany, with so much subsidy-wealth, has not produced a playwright worth mentioning on the world stage. OK. Playwriting is a dying art-form. Today “writers” work for TV or corporations in need of some fictional dialogging to fill their shareholder meetings. Can anyone counter me here? No?

Let’s see. Is Botho Strauß a playwright that has earned world-wide recognition? What about Moritz Rinke? Has anyone ever heard of Christina Kettering? No. Sorry. None of them are worth a hoot because their plays, unlike really good plays, do NOT transcend that whole German-ness thing – a subject which has enough coverage in recent history, I’d say. (But I actually do like Kettering – she’s kind of hot for a writer-chick!)

Here more about what I think of German theatre.

Almost moving on…

German theatre is nothing more than a dead-end, non-creative bureaucratic and compulsive vassal comparable only to two things. One is the corporate government running the whole show, i.e. the giver of subsidies. The other thing is a kind of pussified, bohemian mafia that adheres to the idea that culture is about displaying stuff and not about creating it – just go talk to the people who run the theatres, they’ll give you an ear-full on theatrical economics! What a shame, really. It’s all even more a shame when one considers the answer I give to those who bother to ask.

Those who bother to ask: Tom, what brought you to Germany in the first place?
Me: Well, are you sure you want to know?
Those who bother to ask: Of course.
Me: Beer and easy pussy.
Those who bother to ask: Ha. Ha. Ha.
Me: Just kidding. Ok. You asked. (Short pause.) I came to Germany because I tried to be strategic about my future. You see, I had this dream of writing for the stage. When I was in America I tried to go to small-time theatres but no one would talk to me. That’s just the way theatre is, you know. When the reality of young adulthood hit, I realized that my dream of working in theatre required a different approach. One does have to earn money, right? To make a long story short, I visited Germany in the mid 80s. The one thing that surprised me was the fact that there was/is no place in the world with so many theatres in such a small area. You need a fucking counting machine to count all the theatres between Hamburg and Munich. After that summer in Germany my plan was to go back to America, pack up everything and somehow, somehow, somehow find a way to live in New York City and work in theatre. But then I met someone that knew someone and the next thing I know, I got a job offer to work in Germany.
Those who bother to ask: Wow. So you were able to get a job in a theatre in Germany?
Me: Fuck No! German theatres are as stuck-up as American theatres. The job offer I got was for a firm that required someone to look up library resources using computers.
Those who bother to ask: So you got a job working with computers and that’s what brought you to Germany?
Me: Shut the fuck up you Krautsalat and pay attention.
Those who bother to ask: Jawohl.
Me: Dude, this was the biggest miscalculation of my life. Choosing this path sucks. And it sucks because I thought – at the time – that this might be a “different” thing to do. Go to Germany – where I could actually have a job – and then try to work my way into theatre from there. There’s like a gazillion theatres in Germany. I’ll even be able to finally learn German. I’m young enough. There’s plenty of time to go to New York… Blah. Blah. Blah.

I worked during the day and wrote plays at night. I sent plays here and there and everywhere. No one and I mean no one from any theatre EVER in Germany even talked to me about my work. For more than twenty years I tried to get some attention from a state subsidized German theatre. There weren’t even people there who would bother to listen. And so eventually I was forced to say…

Fick Dich ins Knie, Du Scheiß-Wichser!

Beyond that, after all these years, I don’t give a fuck what anyone says about my playwriting. Maybe my writing does suck. Maybe I am the worst fucking playwright ever. But the one thing today, after so many failed years, that keeps me going as a writer is the fact that ALL the plays I’ve seen on arrogant and non-creative German stages are no better than my work. Fuck you Moritz Rinke! And that piss-head Botho Strauss can kiss my ass, as well. All you fucks born in Germany, under the pacified hat of your comfy German welfare state, can kiss my ass. At least I can claim that my work transcends, it goes beyond borders and beyond a mentality that is stupid enough to believe that capitalism is sustenance for socialism. (The first is about economics and the latter about politics; two completely different things! But who’s interested in such social political details in a country like Germany where people think it’s their right to have vacations.)

But what does any of that matter? I played my cards and lost. So fuck me, too, eh?

In part-2 I might address the play “Die Fische” (The Fish) by Peter Hacks and why I think at least this play should be on as many stages as Peer fucking Gynt or King shit Lear.

Rant on.


How To Runaway From A Sinking Ship

There are two things that I’ve grown afraid of since living in Europe/Germany. One of those things is Beamtentum. It’s more of a concept and, perhaps, a way of life then it is just a word. It translates to something like authoritarianism in the form of officialdom. I guess, in a way, it’s like civil-servant-hood – but with a touch of royalty. Without Beamtentum there would be no Germany, certainly there would be no Bratwurst or Roasted Chickens at Oktoberfest. Beyond that, Beamtentum is comparable to communism and so Germans uniquely cloak it under a veil of what they call “Social Market Economics”. With that in mind, The Federal Republic of Germany is the last bastion of communism in the West. And you can quote me on that.

The second thing that scares me is cynicism – that is: popular cynicism. In other words, Europe is full of a newly defined cynicism that panders to pop culture. The French have it and the British have it, too. But the difference to the Germans having it is that the other two are actually comical with it. That is, their cynicism is believable because it can be easily connected to satire or irony or sarcasm. Those are tough things to bring across in the orderly German language. It all coincides perfectly with the fact that Germans are not funny people.

To try to be a bit more clear, here a few definitions of cynicism:

1) Cynicism originally comprised the various philosophies of a group of ancient Greeks called the Cynics, founded by Antisthenes in about the 4th century BC. The Cynics rejected all conventions, whether of religion, manners, housing, dress, or decency, advocating the pursuit of virtue in a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle.

2) In pop culture, the word cynicism generally describes the opinions of those who see self-interest as the primary motive of human behaviour, and who disincline to rely upon sincerity, human virtue, or altruism as motivations.

3) On the other hand, the Oxford English Dictionary suggests as the usual modern definition (per cynic): showing “a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions” and a tendency “to express this by sneers and sarcasms”.
(Source of all the above: Wikipedia.)

To me a REAL Cynic is someone that thinks and by doing so “deconstructs”. The original Cynics sought answers through the craft of dialogue and debate. The point to their endeavours was never to simply find right or wrong. Instead it was about the process. Of course, today in this burgeoning new authoritarian world that so many people subject themselves to in the name of “careers” and/or “family”, this process is long gone. Although we all do things like talk a lot (and some of us write too much), what is said equates to nothing more than the passing of time. (I write so much because I like the sound of my fingers dancing on a keyboard.)

But is the idea left to us from Cynics really gone? In fact, I’ll go as far as to claim that real Cynics are once again among us – but they are not what you might think. Much of what can or should be deconstructed in order to find answers are very comical – but not in the conventional “comedic” sense. For example, the late Bill Hicks was a great Cynic and if you listen to any of his stand-up (look him up on YouTube!) you might agree. Another might be Robin Williams. Moving beyond America, for you international folk out there, how about the late, great Peter Sellers? To me, one of the greatest cynics of all time was Stanley Kubrik. Am I the only one to have understood the Devine-like comedy AND Masonic message that was his movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? And let me not even get into talking about Dr. Strangelove.

There are, of course, many other examples of REAL Cynics among us, and thus far in my reading of him, I’m starting to think that Peter Hacks might also be one of them. Who knows, eventually he might just make my international list of great Cynics. On the other hand …on the other very sad hand, there is another side to this idea of being a cynic (accentuate the word not being capitalized, please).

The motivation to address the issues of cynicism and Beamtentum (i.e. West German Communism) derives in part from reading Peter Hacks. After reading Hacks’ so-called “classic” works, I thought it time to expand my horizons and try to read something other than a play. Of course, he’s written a huge body of work. Even though I plan on reading a lot of it I wasn’t sure where to turn. So, in my search to find something new and interesting, I started asking around.

Unfortunately, it took almost two weeks and visiting various books stores before I could find someone that even knew Mr. Hacks. But I did find someone, and I think I got lucky. “Oh, yeah, Peter Hacks,” he said. “He’s that religiously Marxist guy.” Oh, I thought, that’s an interesting way to put it. He said that he hadn’t read much of his work but that he recalled the controversy that ensued after The Wall fell and Hacks basically rejected the idea that it was the fault of “communism” that caused it. Eventually this guy recommended the anecdotal story “DieDinge in Buta” (The Thing s in Buta). This particular printing of the text is combined with the beautiful drawings of Rudi Hurzlmeier. It’s a kind of picture book, albeit for adults. Now, after reading this very short story, on the last page of the book are blurbs of the author and the artist. Since I am already well informed regarding the author, I went straight to the artist. And this is where the bad daydreams of Beamtentum and cynicism compelled me to rant a bit.

You see, I think I might be starting to idolize Hacks. That’s right. A guy like me, as far away from anything Marxist as you’ll ever get, is starting to choke-up when I read his work. I mean, I really like the way this guy writes and, with the way things are going in the West right now, it’s kind of neat to be reading someone that is basically undiscovered and whose work can be applied to the newly forming authoritarianism that will soon become our world – post Stalinist/Marxist communism and post Sept. 11. I mean, get this. Here is a question Peter Hacks asked of someone (as printed in one of his published letter collections):

“Where is the Politburo in Washington, D.C?”

What a fuckin’ great question! I’m not sure but I think the question was asked close to Hacks’ death – which means he could have asked it after Sept. 11, 2001, which in turn makes the question significant. Of course, if he asked the question before nine-eleven then the question moves from significance to clairvoyance.

OK, I’m starting to think that Hacks is a cynical genius in the classic sense, you know, as defined by 1. In a political sense he’s a bit of a turd blossom. And because I perceive him through such contradictory glasses, I want to somehow, at least in my own mind, protect him. I want to protect him because of what happened after reading “Die Dinge in Buta”. On the back cover of the book there is a simple blurb on the artist Rudi Hurzlmeier, who drew the pictures in the book. And guess who Rudi works for? Oh boy. Start the drum roll. He works for Titanic, the infamous German “satirical” magazine.

Here is a Wiki link in English about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic_(magazine).

The first thing I thought: Oh, shit! Maybe my German isn’t good enough. Maybe because I miss this verb here or that noun there or because I almost suffocate while trying to read long-winded German sentences without breathing (which interferes with my ability to concentrate), I don’t really understand Peter Hacks. But if a guy who works for a magazine like Titanic understands him…? I know, I’m over doing it. But like I said at the beginning of this rant: there are some things about Germany that scare the beejeebees out of me.

What I do understand is that Titanic is NOT a “satirical” magazine. Indeed, it is a great example of pop-culture cynicism gone amok, as defined by 2 or 3 above. Although it’s been quite a few years since I purchased a copy, the one thing I remember about the magazine is that it is atypically West German – that is: a lot of talk and no action. I mean, it’s quite popular and the voice it uses must speak for such populism. Or?

Seriously, after living in Germany all these years, I have met a lot of big mouths that, if required, couldn’t find their way out of paper bag – unless the United States instructed them on how to do so. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against things being critical – especially of politics or society – which a magazine like Titanic is. But for how long can making fun at the personal expense of others be funny? Obviously, a lot of Germans love this magazine. But you also have to keep in mind that idiots like Oliver Pocher are also very popular in this country. Although I’m no a fan of anything G.W. Bush or of American neo-con politics, there is a simple way of looking at life that comes out of conservative America and it goes like this: if you can talk it you should be able to walk it. For whatever sad reason Germans just love shitting on people just for the sake of doing it. Maybe that’s why they created Schadenfreude. Maybe that’s why there are no Cynics in this country – nor is Titanic JUST a satirical magazine.

So… have I made a mistake about Peter Hacks? Should I even like him? Should I stop reading him? I certainly gave up reading Titanic once I learned that it had nothing to do with satire but more to do with destructive personal attacks and taking advantage of something or someone just because you can. Also reason to give up on German TV hosts that are incorrectly called “comedians” – but that’s another rant.

I came to this country with blind hopes, which is obviously a mistake that I have to deal with. Beyond that, whenever you move somewhere else it takes a long time before you actually see beyond that grass that you thought could be greener. I’ve been through a lot with Germany since early 1989. A lot of stuff has been positive but most of it has been VERY negative. Like the sour-puss faces and bad attitudes, or living amongst a people that are completely incapable of thinking and acting individually. And what about all the negativity and complaining that is the German national past-time? It seems to all come together for me while reading Peter Hacks and being reminded of the disgusting addiction to cynicism and Beamtentum – by a sinking ship! If anyone should be a disgusting and destructive cynic – it should be me!

Ironically there is hope for Germans. And that hope might be in the form of Peter Hacks. But in order for that to happen it must be prevented that Hacks’ work fall into the wrong hands. Religious Marxist or not, Hacks seems to know all about the deal that we now face. That is, he was well versed in the dealings of authoritarian government. At the least, it is a major theme in the works of his I’ve read thus far. And while the authoritarian part of Marxism is being adopted by the West right now, it’s important that a writer like Hacks does not fall into the hands of a bunch of big-mouth, do-nothing smart-asses – who get a kick out of sinking ships.

But what do I know? I probably haven’t understood a word of what I’ve read. And all these years of living in Europe – the Disneyland for perverted adults – has not played well on my sanity. But I did like the dirty pictures by Rudi Hurzlmeier. If only he’d work for a different magazine….

Now I’m off to read “Numa” and “Die Fische”.

May all Germans with a job and a nice income live long and prosper under the veil of their Beamtentum!

God Bless America, too.

Rant on.

How Did Seneca Really Die?

Who was Seneca? My over educated girlfriend kind of remembered him. I called another Abiturient and he could only provide a vague explanation of who the man was. Then I went to my elderly German neighbor who lives above me and asked if he knew who Seneca was. He stared at me for a long, dull moment. Waiting for an answer, I listened to the Altbau house crack and creak as I stood in his doorway; a bird whistled something outside the stairwell window and my dog, Samuel Beckett, was barking that I return home to feed him. Finally my neighbor broke down and said:
“Yeah, I know who he is. Give me some of that rum that you gave me the last time you wanted to know something and I’ll tell you more.”
“I’m writing this pseudo-essay about Seneca’s Tod (Seneca’s Death) by Peter Hacks. It’s a three act play,” I explained to my aging neighbor.
“Peter … who?”
“Peter Hacks. Never heard of him?”
I jogged down the stairs and grabbed a bottle of rum and my dog who was chewing on a Steiff zebra that we named Godot and went back to my neighbor. Sitting on his couch in the living room my neighbor showed-off his ambidextrous abilities. With one hand he poured the rum into two glasses, with the other hand he petted Beckett. I starred at the pictures of his girlfriend and family on the wall. He’d been with the same woman without marrying for over forty years. Between all the black & white pictures of his true love were the shots of his father in Wehrmacht uniforms, a few shots of his dead dog “Smiley” and his mother.
My neighbor filled me in on all he knew about Seneca and by three 3 pm I was wasted and my neighbor was just getting started.
“Do you want to know more about Stoicism,” my neighbor asked.
Gulp. Gulp.
“Maybe,” I said. “Is there anything exciting about Stoicism?”
“Exciting?” he said.
Disappointed and wobbling I grabbed Samuel Beckett and headed back to my apartment. Then I searched through some of my old papers, I mean really old papers, and found “The Pumpkinification of Claudius.” Yeah, I thought. I totally forgot about that. Seneca wasn’t just a boring, opportunistic dip from two thousand years ago. He was actually a pretty funny guy. Alone the title: The Pumpkinification of Claudius. Isn’t that hilarious…

After reading Senecas Tod (Seneca’s Death) by Peter Hacks there was only one thing I wanted to know about the play. How accurate was Hacks regarding the events portrayed? In certain literary circles it seems like a sport to interpret the life and death of the stoic philosopher Seneca. But was Hacks a sports writer? My drink-like-a-fish neighbor didn’t offer much more than I already knew about Seneca. But I liked to go to him about historical questions and he was great source for getting rid of the booze that I have grown scared to drink. He is the type of guy that knows a great deal about history and things – but, he isn’t, like most other Germans, over-educated. That is, he doesn’t have an Abitur, he’s just well read. Unfortunately, the only thing my neighbor helped me with this time was to acquire yet another headache.

Call me a stickler for things redundant. After reading Ein Gespräch im Hause Stein…, Adam & Eve, Prexaspes, I was starting to feel what we call in America “gun-shy” about reading another Hacks play. I thought: I need a break from this communist krapp. Didn’t this guy write anything other than propaganda? Doesn’t he have expanded horizons or something? I also thought that reading another play by Hacks might awaken (anti) communist nightmares embedded in my subconscious. Like when I was in seventh grade at John Hancock Middle School. Even today when a certain bell rings I get down on the floor, put my head under a desk and pray that if the Russkies arrive they don’t torture me into communist submission.

Putting the communist stuff aside, and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post(s), Hacks is a great writer, but there seems to be an issue (for me) regarding his choice of subject(s). With this play I feel more comfortable than ever asking the question: As a twentieth century “classic” writer can Hacks write with any historical accuracy? The thing is, if he doesn’t write accurately, that is, with a bit of concern regarding historical fact, then, as a courtesy, he should at least let us know that what he’s writing is something attributable to… I don’t know… free interpretation?

Hacks’ Seneca is a strange play, indeed. I can’t figure out exactly what this play is supposed to be about. Is it a play about death? Is it a play about a philosopher and his reasoning of death? Is it about Hacks proving how well he can write? Is it about a middle-class, bourgeois Klugscheißer (smart-ass) Greco-Roman whose luck has run out? I don’t know.

Although it doesn’t have it in the subtitle, I think this play is the best example yet of one of Hacks’ classic plays being a comedy. I’m starting to wonder if the publisher/printer of this collection of plays I have made a mistake by subtitling Adam & Eve a comedy. I didn’t think that was a comedy, at all. Of course, this could also be Hacks’ style. I mean, funny dialog doesn’t make a play a comedy. Or? Although I found Seneca to be as difficult to read as Prexaspes (damn German classic rhyme!) it was less difficult to follow but at least there are puns on philosophy throughout.

There is something missing for me in this play. Like some of the intrigue and frivolity of Seneca’s life. Here’s a little of what I know about Seneca. He was probably one of the best examples ever of a philosopher who was a pig-headed, spoiled rotten, failed political opportunist. He was nothing more than a born in the right place, over-educated, Klugscheißer, and if it weren’t for his rhetorical abilities he’d be an honest-to-goodness miracle simply because of how long he was able to talk his way out of death. And Peter Hacks almost captures that in this play. Almost!

(Keep in mind: the following translated text is what will be known as Tommi-translation. In other words, take it with a grain of salt.)

Seneca: So it is ordered. I want the evening cheerful. Bet it works? Two guests, no more, each guest desired.
Nikodrom (Seneca’s chamberlain): It is not two guests, it’s three and one is undesirable.
Seneca: Who is the third you mean?
Nikodrom: Death.
Seneca: With that one the wise man is never in touch. He may search where he’s welcome but not with me.
Nikodrom: And when he arrives uninvited?
Seneca: I go.

Go where?

I don’t know what it is. My only guess is that sometimes authors, by rewriting stuff, forget things. Either that or in order to make something theatrical they have to leave a lot of the good stuff out. In this play Hacks leaves out a lot of the really good stuff regarding Seneca. Sure, the play is beautifully written but… Why not have great writing AND a great story? (I’m trying to stay away from blaming communism here. That’s right: the communists don’t want Hacks writing the real story behind Seneca’s Death.)

For example, Seneca had his first run-in with a death sentence during the reign of Caligula. And do you know how he got out of that? Get this! He weaseled his way out of death by faking an illness. Caligula thought he was going to die anyway. Talk about a Klugscheißer! And it doesn’t stop there. If Seneca was such a smart guy – you know, with being a “philosopher” and all that – then I’m sure he was able to talk his way out of Nero thinking he partook in the Pisonian conspiracy? Actually, do we really know for a fact that that’s why Nero condemned Seneca to death?

Another bit of juice that is missing from Hacks’ free interpretation of Seneca is that Seneca was Nero’s teacher when Nero was young. Wouldn’t there have been some kind of personal connect that Nero had to Seneca? There are numerous accounts of Seneca politically saving-face for Nero throughout his reign. Oh, and what about the volunteering of Seneca’s wife to join her husband in death? Nero nipped that idea in the bud. Why?

So what is the real reason Seneca died the way he did? Here’s where Hacks seems to get the story right. Based on historical facts, Seneca was ordered by Nero but failed at killing himself by simply slicing open his veins. He was too old and his blood didn’t flow. So he put himself in a hot vat of water thinking that would help the blood flow. The reality is a hot bath does the opposite. Seneca eventually died after a long and horrible, asphyxiating death. Yet Hacks has Seneca battle rhetorically with his publisher regarding the fees of his new book. And that’s pretty comedic! I guess.

OK. Hacks is a cynic. And why not be a cynic when you are restricted in what you can and cannot write. Of course, if I had the opportunity I’d be a cynic about Seneca, as well. The guy was most likely nothing more than a jerk. In fact, when I was first reading about him it was at the time when Joschka Fischer’s star was rising on the German political horizon. Of course I didn’t compare the two as philosophers; instead I compared them as opportunists. Yes. May opportunity blossom for all of us! (Btw, at the time I was also comparing Fischer to Diogenes who prayed to dog shit and lived in a bucket.)

Obviously my expectations were high when I started reading this play. I was hoping to learn something new about Seneca. Ironically, the most interesting character in this play was the “Maurer” (a mason or bricklayer). He only has a few lines of text in each scene, yet I couldn’t help but focus on him. Throughout the play this character confronts, intellectually, a “philosopher” and he does so while pushing a wheelbarrow, either empty or full, right through the scenery and/or Seneca’s living room. The metaphor behind this is obvious. As the Maurer constantly interrupts, Seneca asks why he doesn’t go around the house. The Maurer uses a kind of working man’s logic to argue with Seneca that such a thing wouldn’t be logical. I thought that was hilarious. But this isn’t a comedy, right? It’s just a drama about a guy who kills himself in a tub. I guess.

In closing (this pseudo-essay) and for those interested, here’s my theory of why Seneca had to die. This is part of the plot-premise I wanted to use when I wanted to write a play about Seneca so many years ago. Btw, I was highly motivated by “The Pumpkinification of Claudius”.

Seneca was sentenced to death because of Christianity. It was Christianity that would put the fire under Nero’s belt and make him turn against his teacher. Some even believe that Seneca corresponded with St. Paul. But I like the idea that Seneca was actually converted by St. Paul. At the least, the opportunistic “stoicism” practiced by Seneca certainly fits well with the materialist values of Christianity. On top of that, if Paul did get to Seneca then Seneca, knowing what he knew about Nero, might have believed he was living under the rule of the anti-Christ, which many early Christian scholars believed was Nero.

Oh well…

Rant on.


PS Keep in mind that if anyone steels my premise above and writes a play using it, VAT publishing is going to come and break your legs with a baseball bat. ;-)